Hopes Rise for Palestinian Economy

Hopes are rising that 2013 will see a significant improvement in Palestine’s economy after the disappointments of last year. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s pledge to find new ways to promote development in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is, despite widespread scepticism, also furthering this optimism, not least because he has recognised that this must go hand-in-hand with promoting a sovereign Palestinian state.

Palestine’s Minister of Economy, Jawad Naji Awad Hirzallah, told the Arab media in April, after US President Barack Obama’s visit to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah in March, that “We expect the growth rate in 2013 to be 5 to 6 percent. Against a backdrop of negative economic conditions,” he added, “ this is a good indication of growth.” Last year, Palestine’s services sector, including retail trade and tourism, grew by a remarkable 13.2 per cent, while construction was up 6.5 per cent and information and communications (ICT) 5.9 per cent.

 Not everyone, like this couple in Ramallah, can afford a BMW, but their is a hunger for the luxuries of modern life.  Photo:  Reuters

Not everyone, like this couple in Ramallah, can afford a BMW, but there is a hunger for the luxuries of modern life. Photo: Reuters.

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East Jerusalem: Promoting Private & Foreign Investment

While the focus of the international community’s aid to Palestine in the past few years has been concentrated on increasing the sustainability of its political institutions, the economic needs of Palestinians have often taken second place, not least because of the Israeli restrictions on movement and trade and the lack of a coherent economic development policy. The people of East Jerusalem are among those who have been affected the most, having been cut off by Israel’s ‘separation barrier’ from their natural hinterland in the West Bank and squeezed in by Israeli checkpoints such as the one at Qalandiya, which divides Ramallah from Jerusalem.

A view of East Jerusalem, looking toward the Damascus Gate to the Old City. Photo: Liz Tagami.

(Click on the image to see an impressive overview of the ‘Old City’.)

Now a group of Palestinian companies are organising a “Jerusalem Business Forum” to address the growing economic stagnation and rising poverty in the Arab section of the city which has been annexed by Israel against international law and which Palestinians see as the future capital of an independent state. Due to take place in mid-December, it aims to encourage private and foreign investment in the local economy by concentrating on East Jerusalem’s untapped potential, as well as the city’s unique social and cultural heritage which continues to attract some 1.5 million tourists a year. Continue reading

Real Estate and Construction: The Unmet Potential

Back in 2010, when the Palestinian economy was growing at more than 9 per cent a year, the country’s construction industry began to boom, and while it has fallen off dramatically in the West Bank since then, it is still growing in Gaza. New real estate developments, especially in and around the administrative capital of Ramallah in the West Bank, as well as projects to build modern shopping malls, office buildings and housing in Gaza have taken off.

The UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, surveying prime Palestinian land in ‘Area C’, near Ramallah, which is currently under Israeli military control. Its development could help spur further growth in the Palestinian economy and create thousands of much-needed jobs in construction. Photo: UN.

The planned new city of Rawabi, launched by the Bayti Real Estate Investment Company —- a joint venture between Qatari Diar and Ramallah-based Massar International —- was a model that caught the attention of the international press. Costing some $850 million, it will feature gleaming high-rise buildings set on a scenic wooded hilltop. More than 5,000 affordable housing units will be included, spread across 23 neighourhoods, along with green parks, a hotel and convention centre, a business district and shopping areas.

Alas, the project, like so many others in the Occupied Territories is way behind schedule, due to Israeli restrictions that have hindered the construction of a permanent new access road needed to carry tons of building materials to the site.

An artist’s view of the new city of Rawabi which is under construction near Ramallah. Photo: Al Bayti.

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Palestine in The Middle East magazine

One of the main aims of InvestPalestine.com is to promote the bright prospects for the Palestinian economy—and the advantages of investing in it – in the international media, both print and digital. Here’s one example, a 10-page Special Report on Palestine: Building Bridges to the Future, that appeared in the October issue of the London-based, pan-Arab, English-language monthly, The Middle East, which is due to be available online in the coming week. Alternatively, you can pick up the magazine at your local newsstand, or subscribe.

Reaching international readers: A Special Report from the London-based, pan-Arab monthly, The Middle East and InvestPalestine.com.

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Palestine’s Economy: Is It Ready for Serious Investors?

Padico, a huge holding company in the West Bank whose interests run from telecoms and plastics to hotels and real estate, hit the global headlines in May when it became the first Palestinian company to raise a corporate bond — worth $70 million — in the international markets. Its success is seen as a sign that both private and foreign investment in the territories is about to increase markedly as the prospect of the UN’s recognition of Palestinian statehood looms in September.
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